Setting Routines

Parenting | 10 Ways to Establish A Bedtime Routine

Setting RoutinesMany children find it difficult to settle down at bedtime which can lead to challenges. With the longer evenings of Spring and Summer upon us, it can be hard to maintain consistent bedtime routines, particularly in fine weather. For this week’s ’10 Ways to …’ post offering parenting tips, we look at how to establish your child’s bedtime routine. Here are some tips that should help:

  1. Adequate Sleep: How much sleep does your child need every day? Use the guide to help you choose an appropriate bedtime: 1-3 years: 10-15 hours including naps / 4-7 years: 10-13 hours with no naps.
  2. Reduce naps: Once children reach preschool age, naps are no longer necessary. It is best to get your child to bed early and get adequate sleep at night time. Early to bed and early to rise!
  3. Routines are crucial: Develop a clear routine around bedtime with your child and stick to it. The bedtime routine should start no later than 30 minutes prior to your child being in bed.
  4. Snacks: It is important to ensure your child is not hungry going to bed but be careful about food choices offered late in the evening. Too much sugar will not aid sleep.
  5. Consistency: Children are consistent in how they sleep and wake. If you let them stay up late, they will generally still get up at their usual time meaning that you’ll probably have a day ahead with a cranky child – and parent.
  6. Quality time: As part of your routine, plan relaxing, wind-down activities for the hour leading up to bedtime. Too much activity close to bedtime can keep children from falling asleep. Think about what play is good to help children relax and calm down.
  7. Share time: Parents and children need to relax together and reconnect after the day. Share stories from your day and talk about what is happening the next day. Children will sleep better when they have had time to tell you about any worries they might have and to share their stories, and they feel safe knowing what tomorrow brings.
  8. Behaviour: The right time to change behaviours is not when everyone is tired. Think about what is problematic and plan changes. Involve your child in the changes. Make sure they know about this prior to bedtime.
  9. The bedroom: Keep it quiet and calm. Make sure the lighting is just right and ensure your child feels safe. Baby monitors are great at all ages as they reassure a child that their parent will hear them if they call out.
  10. Support children in developing self soothing skills: Encourage your child to soothe themselves back to sleep.  Talk about what might help them to do this during the day, not at night time. Agree in advance what the child can do – can they come to your bed or do you go to them?

This article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email